Is Cactus a Vegetable or a Fruit? (Can you eat it?)

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Is Cactus a Vegetable or a Fruit? Can you eat a Cactus? A cactus is a plant whose fruits can be eaten in most cases. Cacti make us wonder many times whether the plant can be eaten as a vegetable. There are many types of cacti you can find or plant in your garden like the Dancing Bones Cactus, Fishbone Cactus, Cereus peruvianus, Night Cactus etc. The cactus plants have fleshy leaves but not all of them can be consumed. Some varieties are toxic like Peyote, San Pedro, and Bolivian.

Key takeaways:

  • The cactus plants like prickly pear, dragon fruit cactus, and cholla are some of the varieties that can be used as vegetables by simply removing their vines using knives or manually taking them out.
  • The cactus plants are succulents that store a lot of water in them that help them survive in the scorching heat but avoid overwatering or underwatering the cactus.
  • The fruit of cactus plants tastes sweet and the fruit can be eaten raw or even used with other fruits or cooking various dishes.

Is Cactus a Vegetable or a Fruit? (Can you eat it?)

So can you eat cactus? What happens when you eat cactus? We know this common doubt and we will answer everything related to it. 

Is Cactus a Vegetable or a Fruit?

Cacti are the xerophytes that can survive in very low water as well and even no water for many days. The cactus plants produce fruits that are called capsules. So basically the cactus plants are both vegetables and fruits. The cactus is overall an edible plant but can all cactus be eaten? The answer is No! Some cacti are edible. Also, the roots, stems, and leaves of the cactus are toxic and cannot be eaten.

The fruits of the cactus can be stored for months and dried as well. The flavors are seen to be intact even after months and years. Eat them after storing them for 3-4 months so that the strong flavor gets mild. 

Can you eat cactus in the desert?

The cactus that usually grows in the desert are prickly pear cactus which has many edible parts. The plant’s parts like pads can be cooked and eaten in so many ways either by using in salads, soups, etc. These nopales look attractive that are red colored and fleshy. They can be eaten raw as well. It is important to remove the spines first as they can be toxic and can cause cuts.

For more such plant related-articles, you may also read, 10+ Benefits of Snake Plants you need to know!

Benefits of eating Cactus

Health benefits: eating cactus can help reduce the fat of the body and maintain blood pressure and cholesterol levels in the body. The cactus fruits are good for heart diseases, and stroke issues, they can be eaten to prevent vascular issues. The cactus juice has the lowest level of calories which don’t affect any circulatory passage of your body.

Which cacti are edible? (edible Cacti varieties)

Prickly pear cactus

The fruit can be eaten raw which gives a tropical flavor and when they ripen they turn orange ref and give a sweet sugary flavor. The prickly pear pads can also be eaten and used in salads, soups, stew, drinks, etc.

Cholla cactus

The fruit buds of the Cholla cactus can be enjoyed by eating them. The cactus has really sharp spines so it is important to handle them with caution. They are used in making desserts, drinks, and sweeteners. They can be eaten raw as well. The flavor is slightly similar to asparagus and artichoke with a little tangy zest.

Dragon fruit cactus

The dragon fruits are so juicy just like watermelon. The flavor is more like a tropical type. The fruit is high in fiber and good for the gut. The dragon fruits can be eaten raw just by taking off the outer skin which can have thorns or not. They are used in salads, making juices, and drinks.

Barrel cactus

The cactus barrel looks a lot like pineapple but the small ones. They are a bit costly but taste amazing. The fruit can be eaten raw and seeds too but make sure to roast them before eating. The barrel cactus fruits are used in luxury restaurants to make desserts, side dishes, salads, etc.

Saguaro cactus

The fruit of the saguaro cactus is pulpy and more like prickly pear ones. The tiny seeds are loaded into the fruit. The fruit can be eaten raw by taking out the pulp via a spoon and enjoying it. They are used to make jams, jellies, syrups, etc.

Other varieties of cactus that can be eaten are Ardisia, Sword pear, Orchid cactus, and Barbados gooseberry.

What Cacti are not edible?

  • Peyote cactus
  • San Pedro cactus
  • Bolivian torch cactus

Side effects of eating Cactus

The toxic varieties of cactus should not be eaten even if some of them look attractive. Though not all of the parts of the cactus can be toxic in general you should beware of eating them. The peyote cactus as I mentioned above is toxic and contains a psychedelic alkaloid called mescaline which can affect the functioning of the brain. The San Pedro and Bolivian torch cacti are again toxic varieties that should not be ingested as they cause severe damage to the digestive system. The nodal cactus in some cases have come up to be harmful as they cause headache, diarrhea, etc after getting ingested. 

Final words

We hope by now you are completely aware that cactus is a fruit or vegetable. They should be eaten or not. We have uploaded the maximum-related information in this article to make you understand the facts regarding the cactus. We are happy to help. Enjoy the edible cacti! 


Can you eat all the cactus fruit?

The cactus fruits in most cases are edible and are safe to be eaten. The fruit has a weird flavor in a few cases, some have a stronger flavor than others. Mostly they taste bitter. They are totally safe to be eaten. 

What does a cactus taste like? 

The edible cacti and only a few can be eaten. The cactus tastes tangy and juicy. The pads of cactus taste like asparagus with a citrus flavor. So has a pulpy flavor while some of the cacti have a pepperish flavor. 

Becky Decker

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